Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological disease thought to be an autoimmune disorder. It causes a variety of symptoms, with a common one being fatigue. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) also can cause fatigue. This study sought to examine the relationship between fatigue, MS, and OSA. It was performed at University of Michigan's Neurology Department. MS patients were surveyed about OSA and fatigue. Results showed that 1 out of 5 MS patients reported a diagnosis of OSA. This is higher in the general population. Also, the researchers found that an even higher proportion of MS patients were at risk for having OSA based on a commonly administered questionnaire (the STOP-Bang). Finally, OSA was a predictor of fatigue after adjusting for other clinical and sleep related predictors of fatigue.
What the results mean is that neurologists and other physicians who care for patients with MS should not use the MS as the only reason for a patient's persistent fatigue. OSA could be contributing and the patient may benefit from a sleep evaluation. OSA is treatable and some of the fatigue may improve with OSA therapy.